By Jane Litchfield
The sun broke through on cue to ensure a picture-perfect day on the banks of the Eramosa River for festival Sunday at the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival on September 18. More than 40 critically acclaimed authors and literary prize winners read and signed books covering a range of genres from literary fiction, non-fiction and poetry to memoirs and thrillers, and from children’s books through adults’.
Those who came for the words also enjoyed the free shuttle, JOE staff serving Planet Bean Coffee, the environmentally conscious food court, and the open arms of the village. Then there was the surprise impromptu reading by George Elliott Clarke, joined by Leon Rooke and Nicholas Ruddock, for those who happened to be strolling along Publishers’ Way at the end of the day.
Five emerging writers who are not yet published in book format also got a chance to read at The Fringe. The judging panel was surprised to discover they had chosen two works from each of two writers, Angela Michalak, and Marian L. Thorpe of The Writing Room at The Bookshelf in Guelph. If you want to be considered for next year’s Fringe, watch for details here in the new year.
This year’s festivities opened on the Thursday evening in Eden Mills with “a celebration of words, song and humour.” Nova Scotia’s Sarah Mian shared tales of the feisty Tabby Saint from her Stephen-Leacock-nominated novel When the Saints, Guelph’s Nicholas Ruddock read from The Phosphorescence, which was shortlisted for theSundayTimes EFG Short Story Award, and Guelph musicians Alanna Gurr and Nefe entertained.
On Saturday, Alexandre Trudeau visited University of Guelph to discuss his first book, Barbarian Lost: Travels in the New China. Trudeau is so fresh off the transition from filmmaker to author that he had to stop himself from referring to viewers instead of readers. After reading about his aborted attempt to interview a Chinese sex worker, he was joined in conversation by Madeleine Thien, whose recent novel Do Not Say We Have Nothing is set in China and long-listed for the Man Booker Prize.
Thien and Trudeau treated the audience to a rambling discussion about their mutual fascination with China, touching on physical, sexual, spiritual, historical, political, and emotional aspects. The Guelph crowd then politely offered up tough questions about human rights issues, climate change, arms sales, and what China might look like in 30 years (Trudeau optimistic; Thien less so).
In a final festival event on Monday, a collaboration with the Guelph Film Festival brought The Complete Works to the screen at The Bookshelf, followed by a Q&A with director Justin Stephenson. The documentary/animation mix took 15 years to make and celebrates poet bpNichol.
All in all, it was an action-packed weekend for literature lovers and word nerds in The Greater Guelph Area.